This Memorial Day weekend, visit Ancestry® to find those in your family who served our nation and who lived through these remarkable chapters in history. Share your stories on Instagram with #ISaluteFor and tag @Ancestry.
To help everyone find stories to share, from May 28-31 Ancestry is offering free access to:
Search more than 550 million military records on Fold3®, covering military conflicts as early as the Revolutionary War.
Personalized stories on Ancestry.com using its StoryScout™ tool which quickly sifts through millions of records and can curate stories about your ancestors to help you make meaningful discoveries with no research needed.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Memorial Day as a federal holiday, Ancestry partnered with Wounded Warrior Project, The Greatest GENERATIONS Foundation, Combined Arms, and Jewish War Veterans to create a “50 Story Salute,” a joint tribute to those who sacrificed their lives to secure our freedom.
The tribute on Ancestry’s social channels is a curated montage of military heroes through time highlighting powerful stories of strength and hope.
Mention Top Gun and most everyone thinks of Tom Cruise. But did you know there’s a real Top Gun program for fighter pilots? It’s safe to say most naval aviators do; most civilians don’t.
Dan Pedersen, 86, a veteran of numerous missions in the Vietnam War, is considered the real life “Godfather of Top Gun,” which he likens to a graduate school for aviators.
In the original Top Gun movie, those guys became the now-iconic and beloved Maverick, Ice Man, Goose and others. After three years of delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-awaited sequel’s Memorial Day release will mark 36 years since the original movie debuted.
Goose and Maverick fans have been ravenous.
There’s been a buzz about the movie ever since Cruise announced that it was in the works, and Val Kilmer, the original Ice Man, started promoting it.
In “Maverick,” Cruise reprises his role as U.S. Naval aviator Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. The Joseph Kosinski-directed sequel also stars Kilmer, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly and Jon Hamm.
One thing seems to be agreed on, however: the film, featuring what Cruise calls unprecedented flying scenes, is best seen on the big screen.
What better film to celebrate open theaters this summer?
In the Dogfighting Business Maverick and company, though based on true fighter pilots, were glitzed up a bit, and that’s just fine. Pedersen credits the 1986 blockbuster film with helping the military.
“The movie was excellent,” he told U.S. Veterans Magazine. “They motivated us and increased recruiting.” But Hollywood is in the storytelling business. Pedersen was in the dogfighting business. When he spearheaded Top Gun, he focused on pilots, in the air, in dogfights. “The only thing they have to rely on is their professional experience and senior guidance,” he said. “The guys that were with me were far more professional and serious,” he said.
Before Top Gun, which formed in 1969 with Pedersen and eight other elite Airmen honing their skills in Miramar, pilots in that war were achieving a 2 to 1 “kill ratio,” meaning they killed two enemies for every one American lost. “Totally unacceptable,” Pedersen said. And the “Godfather of Top Gun” ought to know. He was there when 11 American pilots were killed in 17 days.
Fast forward a couple years into the graduate school crash course for the one percent of elite fighters of that era, and the kill ratio was 24 to one. So, what does it take to be in that one percent? “The guys have got to really love what they’re doing every day…you’ve got to do a lot of air time, and that’s when you get really good and unbeatable.”
Pedersen, who has been married for nearly 30 years after reuniting with his teenage sweetheart, likes to keep things simple. He credits his own success as a pilot to skilled mentorship, some of it from seasoned Word War II veterans. That was a bottom-line principle of Top Gun: teach advanced tactics to young, talented pilots. And pay it forward by, in turn, passing on that knowledge to the next generation.
At the Top of Their Game
The techniques and tactics that Pedersen and others taught in the Top Gun program are still used today, even with vastly more sophisticated technology.
Why has it stood the test of time?
“These are principles that evolved from experience and winning,” Pedersen said. Not to mention, the world’s greatest pilots. The Top Gun program has since moved to Fallon, Nev., and the technology has advanced but one thing hasn’t changed from air warfare in the 20th century to today, according to Pedersen.
“The pilot, the human, will always be the key factor in a win in aero combat,” he explained. Of the current one percent of naval aviators at Fallon, Pedersen said: “You look at these young pilots, and boy are they good.” Great pilots need great planes. Pedersen loved the Grumman F9F-2 aircraft that he flew dozens of missions in during Vietnam. “You could shoot the eyes out of a cat with it,” he said.
The military continues to deploy incredible planes, but two things concern Pedersen:
1) Some of the uber-expensive ones have too many bells and whistles inside the aircraft (He prefers simple and reliable.)
2) The United States needs to produce more to keep up with China, Russia and N. Korea.
“We have these nice, big aircrafts and not enough planes,” he said. “We do not want to be numerically outnumbered… if you get mosquitos in a phone booth, one fly swatter won’t do.”
An American Story
The release of Top Gun 2: Maverick roughly coincides with Pedersen’s release of his national bestselling book, titled Top Gun: An American Story, 50 years after the original Top Gun program was formed. In the 320-pager, Pedersen tells the inside story of how he and eight other risk-takers revolutionized the art of aerial combat. Hachette Books published Top Gun, and it’s an intriguing read.
Following is an excerpt from the promo on the book’s website:
“… the most interesting parts of the book are the discussions on how he became the man assigned to creating the school. Many today can reflect on similar situations with the War on Terror. The bureaucrats and many high-ranking generals thought they knew best until the candid USS Coral Sea Commander Frank Ault spoke out. Already in line for admiral and with nothing to lose the World War II attack pilot put his gripes on paper in 1968 and sent them to the Pentagon. He listed in detail the problems and the solutions with aerial engagement in Vietnam, in what became known as the Ault Report, and recommended the formation of a school specializing in aerial combat.
“Some of the problems included pilots fighting in Vietnam receiving limited training, having faulty Sidewinder and Sparrow missiles and not learning the skills they needed to outmaneuver the enemy. This became abundantly clear with the kill ratios: In World War II, the kill ratio was approximately 14-to-1, during the Korean War about 10-to-1, but in Vietnam — before the Top Gun program — it was as low as 2-to-1.
“Capt. Pedersen (then a lieutenant commander) was the first officer in charge of Top Gun. He was chosen because of his experiences in the air battles over Vietnam where he received first-hand knowledge of the shortcomings of American tactics and equipment. The ‘high tech’ weapons failed about 90 percent of the time, and the latest fighter plane didn’t even have a gun!
American fighter pilots were being shot down by a third-world air force using Soviet aircraft — MiGs. The Navy moved toward radar-guided missiles and aircraft to fire them instead of dogfighting.
“The Top Gun School ended up being very successful. The 2-to-1 ratio changed to a 24-to-1 ratio. It became, and still is, run by people with combat experience. It is obvious that Top Gun saved lives and turned the air war around.”
Pedersen, who calls the original Top Gun pilots “real patriots,” said he is pleased with his legacy in the military, which is chronicled in his book. “Anyone willing to defend their country should have a voice in combat and should have some control over their own destiny,” he said. “I am very proud that my lasting military contribution was Top Gun, where the trainees became unbeatable.”
Enlisted airmen and guardians in more than 60 career fields can earn some extra cash this year by extending their time in the service — a much broader retention push than in 2021.
The Department of the Air Force will dole out hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonus pay to troops who reenlist by Sept. 30 to work in 63 specialties with particularly high turnover or exorbitant training costs, from Chinese and Russian language experts to satellite and radar operators.
After seeing unusually high retention at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of the Air Force is beefing up its incentives for people to stay. Bonus pay dried up between 2016, when the Air Force offered extra money to 117 career fields, and 2020, when just 37 specialties were eligible. Forty fields were eligible under the program’s most recent update in 2021.
Members of the Air Force and Space Force can earn up to $100,000 in each of four periods of time over the course of their careers: when they have served between 17 months and six years; six to 10 years; 10 to 14 years; and 18 to 20 years. They’re allowed a total windfall of $360,000 over the course of their career. Staff Sgt. Clayton Wear
Bonuses are tallied by multiplying one month’s base pay by the number of years an airman chooses to reenlist, and multiplied again as much as fivefold depending on how urgent a career’s staffing needs are.
This time, service officials have added jobs like cyber warfare, Farsi language analysis, cyber intelligence and fighter maintenance, while others — including human intelligence — have dropped off the list.
Special operations airmen are still in high demand, from pararescuemen to combat controllers, as well as explosive ordnance disposal crews.
Click here to read the complete article on Yahoo News.
Rockstar has become the latest in a string of energy drink companies to add a hemp-infused beverage to their offerings, so consumers can chill out while they rage.
But soldiers beware, these drinks have a slim chance of causing you to pop positive on a drug test.
“A single use of some hemp products may result in a positive drug test result for THC,” Matt Leonard, Army spokesperson, told Military Times.
“[Regulation] AR 600-85 prohibits soldiers from using products made or derived from hemp, including CBD, regardless of the product’s claimed or actual THC concentration and whether such product may be lawfully bought, sold, or used in the civilian marketplace,” Leonard said.
Hemp plants contain more cannabidiol (CBD) than cannabis, which contains more tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Although it’s unlikely, there’s no guarantee that hemp or CBD users will avoid showing positive for THC, which is what the Army tests.
“No test currently exists to identify the source of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a urine sample to determine if it was derived from illegal marijuana, or other products such as hemp energy drinks or Cannabidiol (CBD) infused products,” Leonard added.
“Hence, to protect the integrity of the Army’s drug testing program the only type of hemp products authorized within the Army Substance Abuse Program, Army Regulation (AR) 600-85 are those used as a durable good (eg. rope or clothing).”
So soldiers should avoid the hemp, unless you’re taking up twine-braiding or decide go on a hippie handmade hemp clothing bender. But it seems easy enough to abstain. These drinks aren’t exactly designed to keep the average soldier awake on duty.
Rockstar Unplugged, which comes in three flavors — blueberry, passion fruit and raspberry cucumber — isn’t meant to keep an exhausted person alert.
Click here to read the complete article posted on Yahoo!News.
In Pasadena, Maryland, Retired Army Capt. Kyle Butters could be seen running and carrying an American flag for an important cause last weekend. “This flag has been everywhere from Afghanistan (to) Kuwait (to) Turkey,” Butters said.
More than just sentimental value, the flag he carries is the symbol of freedom and sacrifice. Butters ran 44 miles total.
It’s all to raise awareness about mental health issues facing veterans.” It’s affected me personally.
I was medically retired from the Army due to mental health issues. I’ve also lost soldiers to suicide throughout my time in the Army (and) even since I’ve been out of the Army,” Butters said. Starting in his own Pasadena neighborhood, Butters ran 4 miles every four hours for a total of 22 miles a day to represent the estimated 22 veterans who commit suicide every day.
”They think that during the COVID pandemic, that (it has) gone up by as much as 20%,” Butters said. “I chose to use running as my platform because not every veteran has the physical ability to do what I do, and people pay attention when you do big distances. ”He’s raising money with the run — more than $12,000 — to support the Infinite Hero Organization. ”They provide grants to veterans and also to research causes, whether it’s brain injury, PTSD, even physical disabilities,” Butters said. Butters said he’ll be back at it again next year and hopes this is something that can spread to other states with the ultimate goal of normalizing tough conversations that could save lives.
U.S. Park Police officials have agreed to resume escorts for Honor Flight events around the nation’s capital, continuing a tradition that had been interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The news came just one day before the group’s celebration on the National Mall of the 250,000th veteran transported through the program. Since 2005, officials have helped veterans from across the country visit Washington, D.C. for an opportunity to tour the war memorials and national landmarks there.
In many cases, the veterans are elderly and in poor health, and are able to make the trip only because of the special medical and financial assistance provided by the group.
In the past, the U.S. Park Police provided escorts to tour buses filled with veterans visiting areas of the National Mall with limited parking, such as the World War II memorial and Vietnam War Memorial Wall. Honor Flight officials reimbursed the agency for the costs of the escorts.
Honor Flight activities were largely shuttered by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but resumed last fall. However, Park Police officials in recent months have told organizers they could no longer assist with the events because of bureaucratic issues with the Department of Interior.
On Monday, officials said those problems have been resolved. Escorts will resume starting June 1.
In a joint statement, officials from the Park Police, the National Mall and Memorial Parks agency and Honor Flight said they have met in recent weeks “to discuss our shared commitment to continuing to work together and the best way to safely support hosted visits while also ensuring USPP can meet its primary law enforcement and public safety mission.”
Click here to read the full article on Yahoo News.
To kick off Military Appreciation Month, hundreds of dignitaries, veterans, volunteers, supporters and leadership of the Honor Flight Network will gather at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the organization’s milestone of bringing 250,000 veterans to our Nation’s Capitol to visit the memorials that honor their service and sacrifice on May 3rd.
Event to commemorate the 250,000th participant in the Honor Flight Network program.
– The 250,000th Commemorative Honor Flight participant and hundreds of veterans
– Volunteers, supporters and leadership of the Honor Flight Network
– The Honorable Elizabeth Dole, Event Chairperson
– Speakers include Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Donald M. Remy, Senator Jerry Moran and Congressman Mark Takano
To celebrate Honor Flight Network’s past while charting its course for the future in serving veterans from more recent eras.
Tuesday, May 3, 2022, 2 p.m.- 3 p.m.
World War II Memorial, 17th Street NW
Between Constitution Avenue NW and Independence Avenue SW.
The event includes distinguished speakers and guests, military band, Honor Guard and hundreds of seated veterans, volunteers and supporters, set against the backdrop of the World War II Memorial.
Vowing to make good on Minnesota’s duty to “protect and support” those who have served in the military, Governor Tim Walz on Tuesday signed the new state Veterans Bill into law.
The legislation, which passed through both the House and Senate nearly unanimously, was written to end and prevent future veteran homelessness, fund veterans’ homes and cemeteries around the state, and award bonuses to Gold Star families who have sacrificed while their loved ones were serving.
“This bill makes good on our duty to protect and support our veterans during and after their service – and it demonstrates that we can come together in a bipartisan way to honor the sacrifices of our veterans and their families,” said Governor Walz in a released statement. “As a 24-year veteran of the National Guard, this is a bill that’s close to my heart. I know that this is going to have a real impact for our veterans and I’m proud to sign it into law.”
The new Veterans Law includes:
$5.4 million that will fund a grant to provide assistance to veterans and former service members and their families who are homeless or in danger of homelessness.
$1.7 million annually to fund temporary housing options for vets experiencing homelessness and to increase outreach activities to end homelessness.
$10.3 million in fiscal year 2022 and $16.5 million in 2023 for the design, construction, furnishing, and equipping of new veterans homes to support vets in Bemidji, Montevideo, and Preston, Minnesota.
Nearly $25 million in fiscal year 2023 to fund service bonuses to post 9/11 era vets and Gold Star families.
“Minnesota’s more than 304,000 Veterans know that their voices were heard and their service honored with the historic passing of this first-ever Veterans Omnibus Bill,” said Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Herke.
Along with support for Minnesota’s veterans, the new Veterans Law also provides $4 million for enlistment incentives designed to retain trained and ready members of the Minnesota National Guard over fiscal years 2023-2025.
Click here to read the full article on Kare 11 NBC.
On our special milestone 30th Military Makeover, we are proud to be honoring not one, but two deserving veterans on our upcoming season, and a love story unlike any we’ve told before!
Childhood sweethearts, Justin and Kristie Ziegler, first met in 8h grade in South Florida. Fast forward to the 10th grade, Justin joined the same cheerleading team Kristie was already a part of, they ended up spending hours and hours training together. The team’s coach noticed the chemistry and encouraged them to go on a date together. The couple have been together ever since – supporting one another through each of their hardships and challenges, and even decided to join the Air Force together.
Justin and Kristie married just before Kristie left for basic training in 2003. They were stationed together at Travis Air Force Base in California.
Staff Sergeant Justin Ziegler was assigned to the 60th CES Wing as a Fire Protection Technician. He was soon deployed to Afghanistan to support “Operation Enduring Freedom”. Justin was immediately responsible for the safety of over 2000 troops, as well as over $750 million worth of Aircraft.
Justin’s duties as a Lead EMT and Crew Chief within the fire department, whether on deployment or at Travis Air Force Base, involved being a 1st Responder to medical emergencies which often resulted in encountering traumatic and stressful events; from car accidents and cardiac arrests, to shootings, house fires and wildland fires. Being a first responder to all medical emergencies, including suicides of fellow troop members, took a heavy toll on Justin and opened his eyes to the crippling levels of stress, trauma and PTSD that military service members experience.
Senior Airman Kristie Ziegler quickly emerged as a rising star and natural leader after completing her formal training as a Dietary Technician, and was awarded Airman of the year in 2006 for her dedicated service. When Kristie deployed to Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan her role would change dramatically, providing treatment to soldiers wounded in battle, as well as local civilians who had been wounded or hurt. One of the hardest and most heartbreaking struggles of her career was treating young children who had been injured in bombings; witnessing sights no human on this planet should ever be forced to endure.
Life as a young married couple together in the military was challenging for Justin and Kristie, with deployments separating them from one another for long periods, and both witnessing many tragic events and loss of life. While they still struggle with PTSD, the support and love they give one another has provided the foundation for a loving home for their two children and pets.
For our landmark 30th Military Makeover, and with the support of our devoted partners, we cannot wait to provide a “forever home” for two heroic and deserving military veterans!
Tune in to Military Makeover Thurs. & Fri. at 7:30 a.m. (ET/PT)
The before and after photos will be posted after the Big Reveal, so you will see the family reaction to their newly updated home. Stay tuned!
About the Hosts
Montel Williams: Montel began his professional career in the United States Marine Corps, becoming the first black Marine selected to the Naval Academy Prep School to then go on to graduate from the United States Naval Academy. Williams earned a degree in general engineering and a minor in international security affairs and served in the military for a total of 22 years. He is best known as the Emmy Award-winning host of The Montel Williams Show, which aired nationally for seventeen years. Along with being a New York Times bestselling author, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Montel is a passionate advocate for veterans, education and health. He serves on the board of directors for the Fisher House Foundation and the Anne Romney Center for Neurological Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Montel is thrilled to be a part of Military Makeover, relishing the opportunity to give back to his fellow veterans.
Art Edmonds: Art Edmonds is a TV host, spokesperson and voiceover talent with over 17 years of experience. He is currently best known as the co-host of the TV series Military Makeover.
Since the show’s inception, Edmonds teamed with the late, great R.Lee Ermey, famed character actor and veteran, to give a complete home makeover to a deserving wounded U.S. veteran and his family. Now Art serves on the series alongside talk show legend and prominent veteran advocate Montel Williams to give back to our service men and women.
Art’s prominent narration credits includes three seasons on the Nat Geo Wild top-rated series Swamp Men for three seasons, docudrama series Planet Xtreme on The Weather Channel and two seasons on the Nat Geo Wild series Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER.
Jennifer Bertrand: Jennifer Bertrand is best known as the winner of HGTV’s popular series Design Star, drawing over 5 million viewers thanks to her no-nonsense, accessible approach to making positive and impactful design changes without breaking the bank. After taking the competition by storm, Jennifer moved on to host her own show, Paint Over! with Jennifer Bertrand, featuring families in transition and in desperate need of help.
Bertrand currently is the designer on the series Military Makeover, airing on Lifetime TV, and has appeared in countless media outlets such as USA Today, The New York Post, Rachel Ray Magazine, Life & Style Magazine, InStyle Magazine and is a frequent contributor to NBC.
Mississippi native Bradford C. Freeman will receive the Silver Service Medallion at the 2022 American Spirit Awards on June 9-10. The medallion is awarded by the president of The National WWII Museum to veterans and those with a direct connection to World War II who have served our country with distinction and continue to lead by example.
Bradford “Brad” Freeman is a former U.S. Army Private First Class and the last surviving member of the now-famous “Band of Brothers” of Company E, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. Freeman jumped in the D-Day Normandy invasion, fought in Operation Market-Garden and then was a part of the defense of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, where he was wounded. He was able to rejoin his unit and participated in the occupation of Berchtesgaden and Austria.
The National WWII Museum will host the award gala on-site in New Orleans on June 9-10. In addition to the Silver Service Medallion, the museum will recognize recipients of the American Spirit Award, American Spirit Medallion and Billy Michal Student Leadership Award, and to celebrate the lasting legacy of the World War II generation.
To register for the event and learn more about this year’s honorees, click here.
About Bradford C. Freeman
Bradford C. Freeman played an influential role in the making of the HBO/Playtone Band of Brothers miniseries, based on the book by Dr. Stephen E. Ambrose, co-founder of The National WWII Museum. He has also participated in the museum’s Educational Travel Program, providing a firsthand account of his wartime experiences so that future generations will understand the sacrifice and commitment needed to triumph in the war that changed the world.
Providing Business, DVBE. Employment & Educational Opportunities For Veterans